Shortstop prospect Jiovanni Mier has yet to live up to the expectations placed on him when the Astros drafted him in the first round back in 2009. Mier, who recently celebrated his 23rd birthday, had a disappointing 2013 season at AA Corpus Christi and time could be running out on him.
The Astros drafted Mier straight out of high school and paid him a signing bonus in excess of $1.3 million. Mier seemed to acclimate quickly to pro ball, posting a respectable .286/.380/.484 slash line in 51 games at Greeneville in 2009. His successful rookie campaign earned Mier a spot on Baseball America’s top 100 prospects list going into the 2010 season — and a promotion to Lexington. That’s when the youngster’s struggles began.
Mier regressed to a .235/.323/.314 line in his first year at the Low-A level. He also committed 34 errors. But, at 19 years of age, Mier was still young by South Atlantic League standards. So, the Astros decided to keep him in Lexington to start the 2011 season. Midway through that season Mier had shown slight improvement and was promoted to High-A Lancaster.
The hitter friendly conditions of the California League didn’t do anything to help inflate Mier’s offensive numbers as he continued to post totals similar to his Lexington days. He also committed 12 errors, giving him a total of 22 for the year. Yes, he had improved upon the previous year’s total, but still wasn’t where we expected him to be.
Mier returned to Lancaster for the 2012 season and got off to a nice start before going on the shelf with a hamstring injury in early May. Although limited to only 46 games due to injury, Mier put together a more encouraging .292/.396/.409 slash line. Hungry for a longer look at a healthy Mier, the Astros sent Jiovanni to the Arizona Fall League. While in the desert, Mier played well enough that the Astros sent him to AA to start the 2013 season.
Unfortunately, Mier struggled mightily this season at Corpus, both offensively and defensively. Mier definitely has the arm to play shortstop in the big leagues, but he sometimes seems to lose focus on routine fielding plays. Failing to crack the Mendoza line, Mier began losing playing time down the stretch. In fact, he was taken down for a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning of Game 4 of the divisional playoffs and was on the bench for the entirety of Game 5. The Hooks’ season ended with Sunday’s loss and Mier’s role with the organization going forward is unknown.
Jiovanni’s once bright star has begun to fade and he has been passed on the organizational depth chart by a number of younger players. Jonathan Villar has advanced all the way to the big leagues at the age of 22. The additions of recent draft picks Carlos Correa (18) and Nolan Fontana (22) have lessened the likelihood of Jiovanni making it with the Astros. Even 21-year old Ronaldo Torreyes, acquired from the Cubs in July in exchange for international signing monies, seems to have shot past Mier on the Astros prospects list.
In November the Astros will be forced to make some difficult decisions in order to protect prospects from being taken in the Rule 5 Draft. When the time comes, I doubt that Mier will be added to Houston’s 40-man roster — meaning he will be available should another club want to take a chance on him. Whether or not other teams consider him a commodity is anyone’s guess — but I would have to lean towards a “no”.
Even if he stays in the Astros system, chances are Mier’s path to the big leagues will probably be through another organization. First round picks don’t always pan out. Of course hindsight is 20/20, but the Astros may have been better of taking Mike Trout with that selection.